Monday, June 29, 2015

Jāņi in Greenville, the Latvian summer solstice

It’s a good thing Jāņi occurs on one of the longest days of the year, otherwise there wouldn’t be time to get everything done!

First, the gathering of Jāņu zāles, the raw materials for the traditional flower and oak leaf crowns.

The making of the wreaths can be rather tedious, especially when the pinēja has a house full of boys! (Men's wreaths are usually fashioned of oak leaves, and I find them more time consuming to create.) Next, the rain must pass. There is a reason why Latvians have a saying līst kā par Jāņiem (raining as on Jāņi)!

Then, a family portrait (or two), before everyone scatters! (And before those clean linen pants get dirty…)

Once all the guests have arrived it’s time for the Jāņu feast! Among the offerings you might find sklandrausis, the traditional dish made of rye dough and filled with potato and carrot puree and seasoned with caraway seed, or smalkmaizītes, the little sandwiches with a variety of toppings. But you definitely will find Jāņu siers, the cheese all the most dedicated saimnieces will tie for the occasion!
Once darkness falls and the bonfire is lit, we burn the vaiņagi from the previous year, along with all of our worries and fears.

We jump over the bonfire, for reasons ranging from health and happiness to protection against mosquitos. The fire illuminates the night until the sun rises the following morning.

The children join us in rotaļas, but as the adults keep singing on into the night they drift in and out between adventures. 

The little legs finally tire, their little stomachs drowsy with food and sweets, and guests reluctantly bid farewell. It is with the approach of dawn that we finally get tucked into our beds, dreaming of Jāņu adventures past and present. Upon waking the next morning we might think it was all a midsummer night’s fairytale, if not for the woodsmoke lingering in our hair and the oak leaf vaiņagi wilting in the sun of another SC summer morning…

1 comment:

  1. The tautas-tērpu-trampoline event has my vote for best NEW Jāņu tradition! I bet it guarantees no lack of energy for the next year (and it's harder for mosquitoes to bite a bouncing target!)


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